I have, over the years, frequently been called a 'multi-talent' by those who don't know me very well: 'scatter brain' by those who do. There's probably some truth in both of the above. If I see something I like, or something that moves me, it's generally not enough for me to just sit there and appreciate. I want to have a go myself, and that usually moves quickly toward a desire to master whatever it is I'm having a go at. Of course, if you're a multi-talented scatter brain like me, the number of pursuits, disciplines and goals soon mount up. That might be why, for example, my house is home to 14 different musical instruments. It's not so much that nothing gets done well (I can play them all): more that there just aren't enough hours in the day anymore. This tendency has been with me for as long as I can remember. Recently though, it seems to have reached such a level that something had to break, and it was one day whilst driving to work that I realised that that something might just be my nerves. I had finally gone too far, and 'lost my balance'. Not a pleasant feeling, I can assure you.
I took a step back and took a long hard look at things. How could I continue with a high level of productivity yet still nourish myself with mental calm. The answer was two-fold: prioritise and focus. I'm not going to go into pursuits and professional undertakings outside of writing here, because if I did we'd be here all day. Let's just say I need to find a way to bring you another quality novel whilst still making progress in other areas of my professional life.
Why am I sharing these particular reflections with you? Well, it's because until now I have maintained a commitment to a weekly blog post, and although my latest novel is coming on very well, seen from the bigger picture of all my other projects, it seems that I could spend more time writing the actual story and less time writing teasers and updates. To write one blog post takes me on average a working morning.
So, you won't be hearing from me as often for a while. From now on I will post monthly - more if the muse demands it - so I can get on with bringing you another great story. Until then, if you haven't already seen my first novel 'A Certain Prophecy', you can link through to it at the top of the page; it's worth a thousand blog entries!
See you in a few weeks!!!
Wednesday, 20 March 2013
Monday, 4 March 2013
A exciting development in my experiential journey into the realm of faerie has occurred. Having been drawn through the fractal pentagram I showed you in my last post, I have had my first encounter with a nature spirit. He would like to be known as Fibonacci. He has kindly agreed to be my guide and muse whilst I write my current novel. He is also delighted to be known publicly, because there are certain things he wishes humans to become more aware of: things which Fibonacci believes will be of benefit to both human and faerie realms. He has even allowed me to draw a portrait of him. Please bear in mind though that my drawing skills are very rusty at the moment!
Fibonacci seems to have two over riding passions: the blessedness of nature and the mathematics of nature. Well, he is a nature spirit after all. He was, some of you may have already guessed, also the muse of the great medieval mathematician Leonardo Pisano Bigollo (c. 1170 – c. 1250). Leonardo even went as far as to take Fibonacci as his nick name!
Fibonacci revealed some great faery math. Some of it needs a good understanding of algebraic formulae and how to apply them; some of it can easily be followed with an average command of arithmetic. Today, I’d like to share something very simple with you: it’s called the Fibonacci sequence.
The Fibonacci sequence is the set of numbers arising from the sum of its last two numbers. We can begin with 0 and 1, which makes 1 (I told you it would be simple). So now we have 0,1 and 1. Let’s take the last two numbers again: 1 and 1, which makes 2. Carry on like this and you get the following:
Now, it just so happens that the Fibonacci sequence packs more magick than a wizard’s wand; but just to set you on your way, do you remember the ‘golden ratio’ from the last couple of posts? We expressed it as the number ‘phi’, nature’s most irrational number, or:
(1 plus the square root of 5) over 2, which is similar to 1.618
The Fibonacci sequence bears a special relationship to the golden ratio. If you divide each number in the fibonacci sequence by its predecessor, you very quickly approximate the number phi. Once more, the deeper into the sequence you go, the closer the relationship becomes. Beautiful.
Here’s an example:
1/1 = 1
2/1 = 2
3/2 = 1.5
5/3 = 1.666
(can you feel the magick starting?)
8/5 = 1.6
13/8 = 1.625
21/13 = 1.615
34/21 = 1.619
55/34 = 1.617
89/55 = 1.618!!!
As a nature spirit, Fibonacci is responsible for the healthy development of plants and flowers. Once you understand his calculations, you can see his signature all over the place, from the number of petals on a flower, to the spirals on an array of fruits and vegetables. On behalf of fibonacci, I will introduce you to this magick of nature over the coming posts; but until then, if you are out in the wild wood, moor or meadow, or even your own garden or local park, why not start looking out for the golden ratio and Fibonacci’s sequence? Like the faeries themselves, they seem invisible at first, but once you get to know them, you’ll see they are everywhere.
Monday, 25 February 2013
First the good news: I’ve finished the second chapter (first draft) of my new novel, which is to be a contemporary faerie tale.
I’m approaching the writing of my second novel from quite the opposite direction to the first. As I wrote A Certain Prophecy I had no idea how it was going to end until it did; it was that organic. It was also, in part, a deeply personal story, and as such it didn’t always give me an easy ride emotionally. Practically speaking though, I learnt so much from it in terms of writing strategy. A Certain Prophecy had to be organic in a way, since it was just as much a journey into my own psychology as it was research into various relevant subject matter. My new novel is different, and I’m going about it differently. I have a structure in place, a fully developed story board, and a limit on my word count. At first I worried that knowing everything that was going to happen might make the writing of it less creative—boring even; nothing could be further from the truth. Knowing that the story is in a sense already complete allows me to give all my attention to the creativity of bringing it to life. The creative aspect of writing is focused on expression, rather than what it going to happen next, and that is not at all boring. Another benefit to this more structured approach is to do with efficiency. The first draft of A Certain Prophecy was a whooping 135,000 words (I’m so sorry, Terri). It took over a year to get that down to a final manuscript of 90,000. Knowing how long my new novel will be allows me to calculate a maximum word count for each chapter, and in so doing, figure out how to pace the story arc overall. This is why I can already announce that chapter two is written. For me right now, structure is where it’s at: efficient, time saving, clarifying, liberating structure.
And now, back to the faerie math! In my last post I gave a simple explanation of the number phi (otherwise known as the ‘golden ratio’). I invited you to see what correlations you could find between a mathematically accurate pentagram and phi. Well, don’t worry if you didn’t have time for it: I explored it myself, and below is a picture of what I came up with.
As you can see, I gave each segment of my pentagram a variable (including its surrounding Pentagon). Then, on measuring each variable, I found every segment was in ‘golden proportion’ with some other segment: every ratio came up 1:1.6, the number phi. Therefore, the pentagram is constructed entirely from golden ratios. I also discovered a pleasing ‘fractal’ quality within the shape. The Pentagram is constructed within a pentagon. If you look at the central form of the star, you’ll see it is also a pentagon; just inverted. So, if I drew an inverse pentagram inside it, that would give another, smaller pentagon the ‘right’ way up again. This process continues to infinity. I drew the one below:
Looking at it, it seems to draw you in. Perhaps, in this form, the pentagram shows itself not as a physical gate, but a portal that can lead me into the imaginary realm of faerie. I mentioned in my last post that I intended to accompany the writing of my faerie tale with an experiential journey to the otherworld, and that I had received encouragement from that blessed realm on my visit to the Spinster’s Rocks. It was there that I was ‘given’ the pentagram. Now it seems I have discovered how to use it as a portal to a great adventure. Of course, matter and imagination are interwoven in mysterious ways. Take a look at the picture below: the handy work of a flower faerie? The signature is certainly clear to see, isn’t it?
Oh, yes; one more thing for those of you with kids. Apart from the golden ratio being a great way to get your youngsters excited about mathematics, even younger ones will love colouring in your fractal pentagrams as mandalas!
Monday, 18 February 2013
I decided to do the research for my present novel not just by looking at the literature, but undertaking an experiential journey too. I’m already convinced this was a good decision; I came away from the Spinster’s Rocks (the beginning of my underworld initiation, as described in my last post) with so much more than just a handful of photographs. As I explore deeper into the realm of Faerie, I hope to share my experiences with you, along with what might seem at first sight like a rather unlikely bedfellow: mathematics.
The world around us is the most profoundly exquisite expression of mathematical design; and like staring up into the heavens on a cloudless starry night, the more you look the more you see. It is partly through mathematics that I intend to track the footprints of the faerie folk: the dryads, undines and gnomes, as they weave their magic through leaf and petal and rushing stream. If I am going to write a fairy tale, I really should make the effort to get to know the inhabitants of the faerie realm. Who knows? If they deem me a worthy ambassador, I might receive a blessing of inspiration for my writing.
After having ‘entered’ the Spinster’s Rocks, I came away with a map. I took this as encouragement from the faerie folk. So after some measuring, bisecting angles and sectioning into fifths, I drew a picture of it for you!
I’m sure you recognise it; but recognising it and understanding the mysteries locked within it are two different things. Deciphering the secrets of the pentagram will take time, but let's make a start...
In the centre of the pentagram you can see a symbol. If the pentagram is a gateway to the otherworld, this symbol is the key that will open that gate; and it has a name. The key is called ‘phi’. Enter our first bit of faerie math!
Phi is the faerie’s favourite tool for making just about everything. This lovely looking symbol (borrowed from the Greek alphabet), is a ratio; but it is no ordinary ratio. It is a ratio unlike any other. The simplest way I can describe it is thus: imagine a line made of two segments (let’s call them a and b, where a is the longer segment and b is the shorter). Phi is where the length of the longer segment a to the length of the shorter segment b is proportional to the length of a plus b to the longer segment a. Hmm, that’s a bit of a mouthful. Let’s express it mathematically:
That’s better. The numerical value of phi is 1.618, or at least that’s where we’re going to stop. The number is actually ‘irrational’, so it continues infinitely without either an end or a repeating pattern. So any unit of 1:1.618 finds itself in what is called the ‘Golden Ratio’. Also known as the ‘Divine Proportion’, this profound piece of mathematics is nature's formula for beauty.
As I walk through the pentagram into the mythic landscape of the otherworld, I will use this key to reveal just how much beauty the Golden Ratio has helped design.
Until the next post, I’ll give you a chance to see how much you can find out about the construction of a mathematically accurate pentagram, but until then, I’ll leave you with the same tip the fairies left me: the Golden Ratio is your key!
Oh, hang on: I nearly forgot! If you like drawing, and especially if you have kids, creating a geometrically precise pentagram is great fun. Whether it's for yourself or for a fun activity you can do with your children, here's a link to a YouTube video tutorial on how to do it. Be warned: the tutorial offers a generous amount of humour!
Monday, 11 February 2013
It was minus two degrees outside this morning; a beautiful morning, bedizened with silvery frost. Today, I took the first step on a journey to I know not where; yet despite the mystery of my destination—perhaps because of it—a sense of excitement simmers gently within.
There are two main themes running throughout my new novel: the realm of faerie, and the realm of mathematics. I shall be making an experiential journey into both these worlds as I write my story; and what better place to start than the entrance to the underworld? As luck would have it, such an entrance lies but a couple of miles from where I live. Welcome to the ‘Spinster’s Rock’.
Have you read the sign? ‘About 3500 – 2500BC’. Staring at the numbers, it suddenly hit me: these rocks were erected by my ancestors around 5000 years ago. Just thinking about that, I could already feel my heart beating in concord with the vast tapestry of my heritage.
The Spinster’s Rock was a tomb, once covered with earth and grass, and thus in a sense already underground. Here, the ancestors and the land are in a special relationship. What is the nature of that relationship, and does it have anything to say to us today?
The Spinsters were, according to the web-site Legendary Dartmoor ‘not spinsters in the sense of single ladies but ‘spinsters’ in the woollen sense, i.e. wool spinners’. Does this legend echo from perennial myths of a triple goddess, weaving men’s destinies? In Celtic myth we have such a goddess: she is called Arianrhod (Queen of the Silver Wheel). You can read about her in the Mabinogion: an early text of welsh myth. Be warned, the Mabinogion is not easy reading as it is highly symbolic.
I would like to explore this idea more deeply in a future post concerning the fairy tale ‘The Spindle, the Shuttle and the Needle’.
As I lingered around and inside the rocks, allowing my thoughts to flow uncensored, I began to wonder about the power of the imagination; I began to feel it as a sense. My five physical senses, according to representational realism, inform me of the physical ‘world out there’ by creating representations of reality within my brain. Might my imagination act in a similar way, creating representations of another reality, woven into the land of rock and root and mossy grove? As I stood at the entrance to the Spinster’s Rock, I had a feeling my journey will also be woven; a weaving of place and experience, of matter and imagination.